Opinion Brief

The FDA's 'shocking' new cigarette packs

The federal agency has unveiled grisly images it wants to plaster on every cigarette package. Will photos of dead bodies prevent people from smoking?

The image: Earlier today, the Food and Drug Administration announced that cigarette packs will soon be required to display strategically harrowing anti-smoking imagery — the first such regulation change since 1985. Early versions of the photos, which must cover half the front and back of a standard pack, depict dead bodies, diseased lungs, and a man "smoking with a hole in his throat from a tracheotomy." Regulators will winnow down dozens of potential images to choose nine before the ruling takes effect in 2012.The reaction: The ad campaign may be effective, but "images alone aren’t likely to change behavior," says Dr. Jonathan Whiteson as quoted in The Wall Street Journal; they may, in fact, "desensitize people over time." As a smoker, says Alex Balk at The Awl, "I have no objection to this — I know I'm going to die." If anything, "I'm happy to see a little extra graphic design on my pack of cigarettes," since "it's pretty bland right now." Take a look at some of the FDA's graphic cigarette warnings:

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